Friday, January 25, 2008

I'm Impressed!

Four years ago I fairly wept as I reviewed Tom Kratman's A State of Disobedience. There was just so much unrealized promise in it that I wanted to praise it, but I couldn't because that would do a disservice not only to my readers, but to the author, who could do so much better.

In the following years, Col. Kratman has co-written two books with John Ringo, Watch on the Rhine and Yellow Eyes. Both of them were set in Ringo's Posleen War series, and have given Kratman the opportunity to concentrate on storytelling in an established universe.

And now that apprenticeship has paid off with interest. As I read the first six chapters of the good Colonel's forthcoming novel Caliphate, I'm delighted to see that he has overcome all the weaknesses I had noted in his debut novel. Every scene comes to life with a vividness that sticks with you long after you click the close button on your browser window. The characters, even the nasty ones, come to life -- no cardboard villains or plaster-saint heroes here. Although there are never any questions as to who the good and bad guys are, the villains have real human motivations like greed, and the heroes have real weaknesses against which they must struggle.

Even as it is a novel of America's struggle against radical Islamic fundamentalism and the terrible price she has paid in pieces of her very soul, it is also the story of good Muslims trying to do the right thing in a culture that turns them into monsters. Besma's courage, however untempered by self-restraint, will live in the memory just as long as Lt. Hamilton's fierce lust for vengeance after his beloved is killed, or Petra's helplessness in the clutches of an evil system.

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